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Manhattan Community Board 4’s Transportation Planning Committee (MCB4) praised the extended pedestrian space on 9th Avenue — known as a “truffle” because of the gray-brown color used by the DOT — at their meeting last night, and said it should be expanded. But they also called for action against NYPD cruisers occupying the new sidewalks on 9th and 8th Avenues.
This 11-foot wide stretch along the east side of 9th Avenue from 58th to 50th Streets has been reclaimed for pedestrians with board members saying they make a point to utilize the full width of it whenever possible. A similar extension is being installed on the avenue from 30th to 34th Streets, and the Committee hopes DOT will connect these to create one continuous path from 30th to 58th Streets.
On a recent walk along the truffle, MCB4 member Tina Nelson was scolded by a bicyclist for not “being on the sidewalk” and told: “Get out the bike lane, lady.” Delivery workers and cyclists have been spotted utilizing the painted extension when the narrow bike lane gets too crowded, members said.
Bikes aren’t the only vehicles blocking the new walkways. MBC4 member Charlie Todd showed a picture of an NYPD cruiser straddling the extended sidewalk and the bike lane extension on 9th Avenue at W54th Street. He had another image of one of DOT’s own vehicles blocking the extension just a block away, at W53rd Street, taken Wednesday. Todd pointed out that it was replacing a sign and could easily have parked in the designated bay to do the work.
But it was police cars on 9th and 8th Avenues which raised most concern. Viren Brahmbhatt, another committee member, highlighted the NYPD’s mobile command post that has been parked on the west side of 8th Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets since the summer of 2021, in one of the sidewalk extensions. “Police cars are permanently placed there. They have actually carved out a little spot for themselves. It’s like they moved the cars out, for themselves,” he said.
One resident who spoke at the meeting, Michael, said: “It’s completely fenced off like they own it. It completely dissects the whole experience that you get, that you worked so hard to do. They could just have moved the truck into the traffic lane.” The command post truck was stationed there in June 2021, to deter a rise in crime and open-air drug dealing, the NYPD told the Wall Street Journal at the time.
He added: “City officials, FDNY, NYPD, use it as free parking.” Safer streets advocate Jehiah Czebotar also highlighted NYPD “light trees” on 8th Avenue, which are intended to deter crime, and said: “If they don’t put people off using it, the exhaust fumes from generators certainly will.”
Co-chair Christine Berthet said the obstacles placed by police in the sidewalk extension forced people into the bike lane “so we lose the use of the truffle space.” And co-chair Dale Corvino said: “Is traffic enforcement going to tow the NYPD vehicles that are parked on the truffle?” Berthet said, laughing: “Don’t be silly.”
The Committee is to write to the City DOT asking for help getting all vehicles, including NYPD, off the painted sidewalk extensions on both 8th and 9th Avenues. Corvino, the committee’s co-chair, said: “We will write an administrative letter saying ‘We need help. The NYPD is squatting on the truffle.'”
The committee also heard details of the plan to deal with traffic caused by the imminent closure of the Holland Tunnel at nights, with the Lincoln Tunnel being the diversion for cars heading to New Jersey. W42ST revealed the closure Wednesday to repair damage caused by Superstorm Sandy a decade ago. The eastbound tunnel has been closed at night for the past two years, but next month work starts on the westbound, with far great potential to impact Hell’s Kitchen.
Port Authority officials outlined how they plan to deal with Hell’s Kitchen congestion caused by the closure. The officials project that the Lincoln Tunnel will receive as much as 83% of the Holland Tunnel’s traffic, with as many as 1,609 cars entering each hour at the busiest times, which they expect to be on Friday night. The most visible measure for Hell’s Kitchen residents will be NYPD traffic enforcement agents being deployed when the Holland Tunnel is closed, from 11pm, six nights a week from February 5. They will be stationed at the same spots which are used at rush hour.
Some board members called for discounted or even free train and PATH travel to encourage what Corvino called drivers from “New Jersey’s predominant car culture” to use public transit to get in and out of the city when the Holland Tunnel is closed. But the Port Authority’s Hersh Parek said it could not afford such a measure, with the PATH trains only back to 55% of pre-pandemic usage already.
The weeknight closure schedule from New York to New Jersey will start on February 5, 2023:
- Sunday night 11:00pm – 5:30am
- Monday night 11:00pm – 5:30am
- Tuesday night 11:00pm – 5:30am
- Wednesday night 11:00pm – 5:30am
- Thursday night 11:00pm – 5:30am
- Friday night 11:59pm – 9:00am
- Saturday night No Scheduled Closures